CROWN POINT – Schools are about much more than reading, writing and arithmetic these days, especially when the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new phrases like remote learning, virtual classrooms and Zoom meetings.
St. Mary Catholic Community School was way ahead of the game when it comes to meeting its students' emotional and psychological needs, having offered individual counseling sessions arranged by parents through Crown Counseling Services, a local mental health agency, for several years.
Assistant principal Lisa Hughes explained that in October 2019 the school began hosting monthly group counseling sessions for seventh-grade classes after she and principal Tom Ruiz “noticed that our students were having some issues.”
“We hired two counselors, a male to work with the boys and a female to meet with the girls,” said Hughes, using available federal funding, and the students were encouraged “to talk about any of their concerns,” personal or global. The counselors were able to come in four times before the COVID-19 pandemic led to remote learning for the rest of the semester.
“This fall (when in-person classes resumed), it was brought to our attention by numerous parents that their children could use some help coping with so many in-person restrictions – masks, social distancing – which are not typical for junior high students, who are very social. When you can’t see someone’s face, it takes away from the experience,” said Hughes, adding that teachers, too, noticed the tension.
“This year, we were fortunate to expand our program to include a second counselor,” said Hughes. Students in each seventh- and eighth-grade homeroom will meet monthly, if possible, with counselors from Crown Counseling via Google Meet to discuss a variety of issues faced by students, particularly those resulting from COVID-19. “The students find out that what they are feeling is normal, not unique to them.”
The full version of this story is in the NWI Catholic.